Canada’s Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Canada’s Stewart-Cassiar Highway

We departed Haines and headed towards Stewart, British Columbia with overnight stops in Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Dease Lake. The landscape just north of Haines is spectacular. You travel alongside two mountain ranges. The first is within the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park.

The second mountain range is within the Kluane National Park.

Since our route took us back through the village of Haines Junction we just had to stop at the Village Bakery one final time. We stocked up on some frozen lasagna and enjoyed some cinnamon rolls.

Our first overnight stop was at the Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse. This is the same park we stopped at on our way to Alaska. The temperature was in the low 40s and it was very windy.  The leaves were starting to turn to fall colors and it felt like winter was fast approaching.

We woke the next morning to temps in the 30s. As we drove to the Baby Nugget RV Park near Watson Lake we encountered a few snow showers.  Crazy considering that it is still August!

Leaving Watson Lake we turned onto the Stewart-Cassiar Highway (otherwise labeled as Hwy 37). We had heard many good things about this road and were looking forward to traveling it. As we drove from Watson Lake to Dease Lake we encountered a little more snow. There was a bit of accumulation on the ground, which made a really nice contrast to the bears we spotted along the road.

Charlie and I had no idea that 90% of the Jade in the world market is currently supplied from British Columbia, that is until we came upon the Jade Store in Jade City. All of the Jade for the products in the shop is mined locally. I purchased a small jade bear with a fish in its mouth, as it is reminiscent of our bear-viewing excursion, a highlight of our Alaska trip.   

The last leg of our route was from Dease Lake to Stewart. We had rain and snow most of the way. Hwy 37 is beautiful so I was a little bummed that we didn’t have better weather, especially for the area just north of Stewart, where you drive through a canyon with glaciers on both sides of you. We did spot a bear along the road, which is always a joy.

The purpose of our trip to Stewart was primarily to visit Hyder, Alaska. Hyder is a small village of less than 100 residents.  The only way to get to Hyder is through Stewart. Although you cross over the border between Canada and the United States to get there you will not find a US customs office. You can drive right into Hyder. However, you cannot get out of Hyder without going through Canada Customs. This system seems to work since there is nowhere to go from Hyder, except back into Canada.

Hyder is such a small and remote village that we would most likely had never visited it if we had not been with the Fantasy Tour group. We were very happy that it was included as a destination. We spent 2 nights in the area and during that time we saw nearly a dozen bear and some outstanding glaciers.

The small town of Stewart, BC

The locals say that bears in Hyder are like squirrels in other cities. You can spot them roaming the streets at all times of the day, which we did. We spotted a mom and her 3 cubs crossing a street.

We spotted a bear picking berries right next to a small general store.

The most exciting was watching a black grizzly bear fish for salmon. This particular bear was seen at the wildlife refuge. They put a platform above the river where bears are known to fish for salmon.

We took a drive up to Salmon Glacier and enjoyed some spectacular close-up views of the glaciers.

As we drove to the glacier we came upon a Hoary Marmot. We didn’t know what it was until we asked a local resident. They are a species of marmot that inhabit the mountains of northwest North America.

Our trip leaders let us know about this fantastic fish & chips place, operated out of an old bus. They weren’t wrong. The halibut fish and chips were excellent!

We are so happy that we had the opportunity to visit Hyder. As I mentioned, I don’t think we would have put this small town on our hit list. I’m glad Fantasy Tours did.

From Stewart we drove to Smithers, BC, our final destination of the 62 day Alaska your-way Fantasy Tour. We enjoyed a farewell dinner at Daddio’s, a local family owned restaurant. We were all impressed with the high quality of food and service.

As a side note, I was nervous about joining a group for our Alaska trip. I was afraid that it would hinder my photography opportunities or that we wouldn’t be able to be as free as we would otherwise have been doing the trip on our own. Well, I was wrong. Doing the Fantasy Tour was a great thing. We met some wonderful people, went to places we would not have otherwise gone, got help when things went wrong, and had the ability to modify the trip when we desired, such as when we went to Denali and Valdez a few days ahead of the group.

After 62 days together we bid our farewell in the morning and went on our way. We have 2 more months of travel ahead of us, on our own. Our next major stop is Jasper, Alberta, Canada where we will be dry-camping (no water, sewer or power) for 5 nights at the Jasper national park’s Wapati campground.

If a road trip to Alaska is in your future then I highly suggest that you get yourself “The Milepost” book. It is extremely detailed and informative. I would not want to do the trip without it.

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